Hey readers, this is the Groggy Groggy Iguana. Some of you may know me for my imporantant role in The Lonely Lonely Chameleon book. Here I am on page 17.
The Lonely Lonely asked me to review games for the site. I tend to play a pretty wide variety of games, just depends on what I feel like playing. Sidenote, I won’t review anything that I haven’t completed to my satisfaction (I wouldn’t review Mario Galaxy until I got 120 stars, but I’d review Mario Sunshine after getting all the non-blue coin stars). So for the time being, don’t expect reviews of brand new games as soon as they release. I will also try to avoid any spoilers, or at least mark them if I feel it’s vital to the review. First time reviewing a game like this, so bare with me if the format and such seems a bit odd.
I feel that games can be broken down into 5 main aspects: graphics, music, story, characters, and gameplay. Beyond that, these aspects are more or less important then others depending on the games and genre. For example, game play outweighs virtually EVERYTHING else in a game like Devil May Cry, but in most RPGs gameplay is tied with story and characters. Graphics tend to be the least important, the main exceptions are games where the art style is a big feature (Okami, Madworld, etc).
Anyway, being a big fan of the various Mario RPGs, Paper Mario Sticker Star seems like a perfect game to review first. But its actually a bit difficult to review. It has the Paper Mario name, but it’s a drastically different game than the previous Paper Mario games, so it’s difficult to judge as a separate entity.
Graphics – 7/10
If you’ve played the previous Paper Mario titles, you know what to expect here. As the name implies, the world of this game is made of paper. The original didn’t do that much with this outside of creatures being flat. Thousand Year Door kept the same premise while adding “paper transformations” (tube, plane, boat, and flat) for Mario. While I did enjoy the style of both games, they didn’t really take the paper aspect that far as other paper mario’s have in the past. The world map is essentially a pop-up book, and the levels themselves do a good job of maintaining that feeling.
From cardboard coins to pop-up style bushes that fall over when hit. Clouds hung up by string to bricks that break into paper and float away. Even the enemies fold themselves into cones to make themselves jump proof, some will come in stacks to make themselves tougher, some will even take a trick from Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door and roll themselves into a tube before running you over. The graphics themselves and the 3d aren’t the best on the system, but they are far from the worst.
Music – 9/10
The music here is great and fits the games style perfectly. From the main title screen to the ending credits, it’s full of catchy songs. Each level has music that fits its feel, while none of the songs get annoying. The song you’ll hear the most is the battle theme, which is personally one of my favorites in the game. Add a couple of nice touches to that like the world map’s music changed based on what environment you’re in or a boss that claps and attacks to the music and you get a 9/10 for the music.
Story – 3/10
My first and biggest complaint with the game. For those that don’t know, previous Paper Mario’s had an overarching storyline as well as stories contained in each of the games chapters. For this game, they downplayed the story pretty heavily. There is a brief story sequence at the start of the game and a bit more at the end of the game… and that’s it. There really isn’t anything more to the story then that. It’s a standard Mario story where Boswer did this and that, took Peach, and now you go collect this and that to stop him. With no story in-between, you’re left with a pretty underwhelming story that I can’t give better than a 3/10.
Characters – 4/10
This is where my biggest issue with the game is. Previous Paper Mario titles were FILLED with charm that came from the various NPCs/partners/enemies/Bowser throughout the game. In this game virtually all the NPCs are generic Toads. There are minor exceptions, but too far and few. Gone are the conversations from partners and bosses. In fact, most of the conversation in the game comes from your only partner Kersti, and even then they pale in comparison to those of the past games. Heck, Bowser doesn’t even have a single line in the game. Fortunately, the game does still have plenty of its own charm from things like enemy design (stuff like Mariachi Band Shyguys was awesome) and the way they use the games paper design, otherwise it would have gotten a lot lower score.
Gameplay – 7/10
Some of the gameplay elements have gotten a lot of flak from fans of the older games. In previous Paper Mario, you had turn based battles where your attacks came from a mix of badges and your partners (with experience points as a reward) while most puzzles in the environment were based on the abilities of your partners (which are not in this game).
In this game, battles are sticker based. Stickers are a 1 use per sticker, and every action you take in battle is based on your stickers. Stickers can be found wherever you look in the environment, from blocks, bought in shops, and won from battles. On top of that the game has a bunch of real world objects (known as “Things” in games) like baseball bats and bowling balls that you can turn into stickers. These “Things” tend to be incredibly strong and I personally recommend only using them on bosses to keep the game interesting.
You no longer gain experience points from battle, which has led to several people calling battles pointless because it’s viewed as nothing but a waste of stickers. Battles do drop stickers, and more importantly, coins. Coins are much more important than previous titles since your attack supply can be tied to them. At the end of each level the game rains coins on you, but the amount is determined by how many battles you fight in the level. Plus, battles tend to be a lot of fun, so they are far from pointless.
The game also introduces the Battle Spinner. Each turn in battle you can use some coins to spin roulette. Matching 2 wheels allows you to use 2 stickers in one turn and 3 wheels gives 3 turns with a bonus effect based on what picture was matched. You get more coins/stickers from a battle for a 1 turn win, so this is pretty helpful in later game battles.
Boss battles can be fought 2 ways. Each main boss has a “thing sticker” that when used does a huge chunk of damage and makes them weaker in some way (lower defense/attack, prevent a specific attack, etc). This isn’t a requirement though, as you can tough it out with regular stickers, making the battle much harder and the Battle Spinner VITAL.
Environment puzzles tend to be a simple matter of finding which “thing” is needed here or using Kersti’s only ability. Some levels do mix it up pretty well, like a level that emulates Luigi’s Mansion and requires you to find 100 Boo’s hiding in a mansion to move on.
Overall, Paper Mario Sticker Star is a good game and a lot of fun. Most of its biggest flaws are from comparing it to previous Paper Mario titles, although it does have a couple flaws on its own. I’ve decided to give this game 2 separate scores. One is the game as its own game; the other is a game as an entry in the Paper Mario series.
As a game on of its own, the game a blast, well worth playing through, but doesn’t really stand out as a top game of its genre, so I’m giving it a 7/10
As an entry into the Paper Mario series this game losses a lot of the charm of the series from the loss of partners/characters and the bare-bones story. It’s still fun, but if you’re looking for a Paper Mario like the first 2 and nothing else, you’ll probably want to give this a pass. As a Paper Mario game, I’ll give this a 3/10.